Creative Korean eateries are conquering Victoria’s once-traditional palate — and we can’t get enough.
By Cinda Chavich
Veg bibimbap from the Persimmon Tree.
Chef David Chung describes the beautiful, shareable plates he creates at his new Persimmon Tree restaurant as “modern Korean cuisine.”
Featuring a sophisticated and exotic menu, the sleek, modern restaurant is a welcome respite from the bustle of nearby big-box stores and fast-food chains.
Don’t worry if you’re not yet familiar with the nuances of spicy kimchi or savoury gochujang sauce. The Persimmon Tree is just one of a growing collection of Korean eateries around town.
It’s all part of a moment that Korean cuisine is having around the world. A recent Technomics restaurant survey found Korean fried chicken grew by nearly 30 per cent on menus last year, and some are calling gochujang the “new ketchup.”
Chung favours a contemporary take on the food he grew up eating in Korea, a fusion of traditional flavours with the techniques he learned at B.C. culinary schools and in top Canadian hotels.
From rare seared tuna salad with pickled radish and seaweed, to spicy kimchi-fried rice sizzling in a stone bowl, his Persimmon Tree plates are made with fresh local ingredients and artfully presented.
And when it comes to that addictive crispy Korean fried chicken, locals are raising a glass at Chimac Korean Pub and Fried Chicken on the downtown waterfront and lining up daily at Chicken 649 for fried chicken to go.
In a minimal space stacked with takeout boxes, Tony Yeom and crew at Chicken 649 are masters of this Korean fast food. Their fried chicken is so popular diners must call ahead when the restaurant opens at 3 p.m. to get into the queue for their order. Brined overnight, then fried to crispy perfection, the chicken arrives plain or bathed in traditional sauces, like Yangnyeom made with Korean gochujang, a sweet pepper paste of chilies and fermented soybeans.
You can also get your Korean food fix at King Sejong, popular with Korean students, or at Dak where you’ll find Korean-spiced rotisserie chicken or bulgogi beef sandwiches. At Bao, try fresh bowls of bibimbap (rice topped with a choice of Korean fried chicken, fried tofu or pork belly, with the requisite fried egg and kimchi).
The sweet and spicy flavour of gochujang or the probiotic-rich kimchi can be addictive. But thankfully Victorians now have more local spots to explore both authentic and creative Korean cuisine. I’ll raise a glass of soju to that!
This article is from the July/August 2018 issue of YAM.